Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

MS in Public Health (M.S.P.H.)

Degree Granting Department

Public Health

Major Professor

Rays H. Jiang, Ph.D.


ALA, Ferroptosis, Heme-Overdrive, RSL3


Cancer cells are characterized by their ability to grow and proliferate in rates that far exceed normal cells by modifying their iron/heme metabolisms to levels higher than normal. This imbalance of heme biosynthesis can lead to cancer cells having a flux of heme intermediates to the point where they enter a state called heme-overdrive. Heme-overdrive is a process unique to a variety of cancers but absent in normal tissues. With this enhanced production, heme can act as an epigenic regulator for signaling proliferation (18). Through the novel strategy called ‘bait-and-kill,’ cancer cells will be coerced into a state of heme overdrive then killed through an iron-dependent, non-apoptotic, regulatory cell death called ferroptosis. However, cancer cells can vary from each other meaning that their sensitivity to the same ferroptosis inducer may differ.

The cell lines that were utilized in this research were two erythroleukemic cell lines K562 and HEL. Both specimens are iron-dependent but have different metabolic networks which results in as differential sensitivity to ferroptosis. In summation, our research discovered that heme-overdrive is a common biological strategy expressed exclusively in cancers that enhances rapid production of heme for rapid proliferation and growth but is vulnerable to ferroptosis; and utilizing our ‘bait-and-kill’ strategy we can target this unique, and exploitable, vulnerability to destroy it.

Included in

Epidemiology Commons